|The Early Years/Soul of the City||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Collaborative Housing Society (cohosocweb.apc.org)|
|Date: Mon, 30 Oct 1995 10:28:32 -0600|
Judith, re: your "wish that I would comment", I thought you were explaining it rather well as it was. . . As for my comment that cities have souls, I want to slightly rephrase that. In my growing interest in this whole idea of "neighbourhood" and neighbours, an underlying question is why defined neighbourhoods seem to take on a certain spirit or identity of their own. Toronto is blessed with many wonderful downtown neighbourhoods, and almost everyone has an ability to talk about them as places beyond their geography - ie., the Beaches is understood implicitly to be a different place than the Annex, or Riverdale, and not just because it's on the lakeshore, though that obviously has a lot to do with it. I'm talking about the things that might not even show up in demographics. I think that Riverdale has the same demographic mix as the Beaches, but it is a very different place. But even if differences did show up in statistics, Why? What attracts that mix to that area? (The neighbourhoods I am mentioning all share very similar house prices, and offer a fairly wide range of income levels, household types, etc., but are very different places) That's the unquantifiable "soul" I was refering to, perhaps better captured by the idea of Place (read Tony Hiss's book, "The Experience of Place" for more on this). I can't help but think that it is not a far stretch to suggest that cities have identities, if not souls (ask someone of their feelings about Toronto who has had the pleasure of living in Montreal. . .) So, how does this relate to cohousing, and getting cohousing started in inhospitable environments? All I have to say to that is that one of the best neighbourhoods we lived in, from a coho-esque point of view, was on the 12th floor of a 30 storey high rise. We overcame the limitations of that building form by leaving our doors open (to catch the cross breezes in the summer), letting our cats wander around at will (not *all* the time!), sharing occasional meals, and doing all the neighbourly things. This happened gradually over time, and time is perhaps the key factor in all this - we lived there for 7 years, but so did many other people in the building, without the same effect. So how did it happen? All I can say is that a couple of people on that floor wanted good neighbours, so became good neighbours. Things like showing up with a bottle of wine and four glasses on the day we moved in, same when ever anyone else moved in. They used to leave their door open, whether you wanted them to or not. Not only did no one complain, others (*not* everyone) started to do the same. Never overly intrusive, just very friendly, welcoming, lots of little things that just grew into neighbourhood. A key, from my architectural point of view, is that all these actions were ways of claiming that dead, institutional space between our units for ourselves. It was not uncommon to see people open up their doors and vacuum the hallway around their apartments, even though the property maintainence was pretty good. Its a way of saying this Place is ours, and not just abrogating our responsibility to a place to some nameless, faceless management corp., or government, or any other outside entity. Again, how does this relate to coho? Well, my theory is that if I'm starved for human contact and community, there must be others out there who are too. In relation to this discussion about Philadelphia, surely all the people who've ended up there from somewhere else are dying to overcome the frigid social hell they've found themselves in. . . Calling a meeting about coho, even if only three people show up, is the only place to start. You could then go on to have monthly pot-lucks at each others houses, and watch it grow. Remember, it doesn't have to spring fully formed from someone's forehead to be cohousing. . .or whatever else you want to call it. In fact, wanting it to be perfect from the start is, IMHO, a symptom of why cohousing had to be invented for our world in the first place. In the end, remember the parable about the journey of a thousand miles starting with that first step - cohousing *could* be as simple as saying hello, and opening your door. If the neighbours really don't like it, or don't respond, I suggest getting the hell out of there! They're sucking the life right out of you! I read over this and know that it sounds so simplistic - no program, no do's and don'ts. But cohousing is, at its heart, such a simple, and elegant, idea. It doesn't really need fancy new developments, reinvention of the house or even glossy picture books - though they all help, and have value in their own right, and I'm glad we have them. But I'm still convinced that cohousing starts when someone realizes the power of saying hello to a neighbour, and goes on to keep saying hello. That's what we've lost in our modern world, and that's what all this talk about financing and construction is, in the end, trying to rebuild - IMHO. And no talk about income disparities, ghettos, bad neighbourhoods can convince me otherwise - I've seen too many cases of people becoming good neighbours, cohousing neighbours even, in spite of the worst physical and social surroundings. In the end, what I call "cohousing" is just people opening their doors to people. And, with good reason, that can be the scariest path of all. Russell Mawby Toronto cohosoc [at] web.apc.org
- (no other messages in thread)
Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.